The Archive Of Mari -- By: G. Herbert Livingston

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 05:4 (Autumn 1992)
Article: The Archive Of Mari
Author: G. Herbert Livingston

The Archive Of Mari

G. Herbert Livingstona

Like Ebla, the earliest settlement of Mari dates back to the last half of the fourth millennium (3500 to 3000) BC. The ruins of Mari are located on the south bank of the Euphrates River, about 15 miles north of the present-day Syrian/Iraqi border. The Arabic name for the site is Tell Hariri. The cities of Ebla and Mari were trade and political rivals during the Early Bronze (ca 3100–2100 BC) and the Middle Bronze (ca 2100–1550 BC) ages. The ruins of Mari cover about 280 acres.

Mari dignitary, early third millennium BC, Allepo Museum.

The Discovery

In August 1933, a local Bedouin nomad discovered by chance a headless statue on which was an inscription. Local officials of the French Mandate had the inscription translated and, believing the site to be important, notified authorities in France. The authorities were impressed and sent an arehaeological team headed by Andre Parrot. In December of 1933 the excavation of Mari was started and within a month another inscribed statue was brought to light. The translation of the inscription revealed the statue was a gift to the goddess Ishtar presented by one of the kings of Mari. This information strongly suggested the ruins might belong to the ancient city of Mari. More inscriptions were found in the ruins, some dating from the third millennium BC. They provided clues that an ancient Semitic civilization had existed in the upper Euphrates Valley, but the clues were not taken seriously until the discovery of the Ebla tablets almost 40 years later.

The Golden Age of Mari dated from about 1860 to 1760 BC. The excavation

team, over several decades, uncovered a number of buildings and artifacts which showed that Mari was a wealthy city, with a culturally advanced society in that time.

The royal palace of King Zimri Lim was the most significant building excavated at Mari. It was a brick structure, covering nine acres and possessing some 300 rooms. Thus the palace was one of the largest that existed during the Middle Bronze Age. One of the most striking features of this palace was the use of some rooms as bathrooms—they had hard clay bathtubs, lavatories and a functional plumbing system. Scribes did their work in other rooms where they copied ancient tablets and wrote trade and political information on other clay tablets. Near where the scribes worked were libraries in which tablets were stored. These libraries, or archives, yielded about 25,000 tablets.

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